Friday, December 27, 2013

2013: The Year in Review (Part 2)

Hey, we're on a roll here. Not really, but cut me a giant slackburger with cheese, okay?  It's Christmas.  Here are some more highly desirable and coveted awards for the Year That Almost Was - 2013!

The ONE-TRACK MIND/NO-TRACK BRAIN Award goes to the Republican Scandal Industry:  "Benghazi.  Benghazi.  Benghazi.  Benghazi.  Benghazi.  OH LOOK! A SQUIRREL!  Benghazi.  Benghazi.  Benghazi.  Benghazi."

The WINTER OLYMPICS AWARD FOR SPECTACULAR WASTE TIME AND MONEY goes to the government shutdown last October.  This was when the Republican party completely lost their minds and got hijacked by a bunch of noisy, obnoxious douchebags in their own caucus and brought the entire US government to a complete halt.  The Tea Baggers, ostensibly led by pasty-faced bed-wetter with questionable citizenship Ted Cruz (aided by his completely demented, Alzheimers-ridden father), threw a hissy fit and turned what should have been a routine budgetary procedure - raising the federal debt ceiling, something that Republican false idol Ronald Reagan did 18 times during his reign of error in the 80s - and tried to use it to cripple the Affordable Care Act which also debuted in October.  Because that's the way one of the oldest representative democracies in the world changes legitimately-passed laws that run afoul of a bunch of dimwitted loose cannons in the House of Representatives - by shutting down the government.  Millions of federal employees furloughed, national parks closed, airport security compromised, for what reason?  Less than three weeks later the Tea Baggers capitulated in a hugely embarrassing loss, gaining ABSOLUTELY NOTHING other than a monstrous amount of bad publicity, the Republican party rightfully buried under the condemnation and derision of the public, and the Office of Budget and Management estimating that over $64 BILLION dollars of taxpayers money were completely squandered by this useless exercise in constipated government.  And the target of their misplaced ire, the Affordable Care Act, was completely and utterly unscathed by all this (although it definitely had problems of its own making, more about that later).  Hope you enjoyed your little 64-billion-dollar tantrum, Tea Baggers, because the result was that most people in this country had their pre-existing opinion reaffirmed - that you are a bunch of selfish, useless, idiotic dicks.

The WHY ARE YOU STILL ALIVE? Award goes to Miley Cyrus and her delightful twerking episode on her appearance at the MTV Video Awards (or something, I can't tell any of those award shows apart anymore).  Stretching the definition of "entertainer" to nearly the breaking point, Ms. Cyrus and her grotesquely large tongue made their entrance from the inside of a gigantic teddy bear complete with Battlestar-Galactica-Cylon scanning red eye.  And things went downhill from there.  Floundering and gyrating around on stage like a zombie scarecrow with a severe neurological disorder, she made her way through a bunch of confused dancers dressed up like plush animals.  Then singer Robin Thicke sashayed out of nowhere, decked out in the latest football referee formal wear and warbled out his current song "Blurred Lines" (which, I'm embarrassed to say, I find irresistibly catchy and have on my MP3 player).

But, cultural critical mass and nuclear detonation was achieved when Cyrus bent over, backed into Thicke's crotch and did some half-hearted spasmodic twitching which the kids nowadays call "twerking."  500 years ago folks would have called it "St. Vitus' Dance" and burned her at the stake.  Well, the next day the American public went completely batshit crazy, just like they did when Janet Jackson had her infamous "wardrobe malfunction" during the 2004 Superbowl halftime show with Justin Timberlake, and kiddies all over the world were treated to the unexpected sight of her boobie and nipple shield (and I'll bet THAT made for some interesting post-Superbowl parent-child conversations).  Every single pundit went into overdrive and were unanimous in their conclusion that this is America, not some godless wicked society which would allow such a wanton display of abysmal taste and moral dissolution.  Ironically, this really IS America, and the only bad publicity is no publicity.  Instead of being banished to the outer reaches of cultural Siberia, Cyrus received an unprecedented avalanche of publicity which she funneled right into the release of her latest music album, resulting in spectacular sales and well over 35 MILLION likes on Facebook.  Jesus Christ's Facebook page, by comparison, has fewer than 6 million likes.

So what are we to make of this, when a very marginally-talented, utterly forgettable celebrity behaves in an overwhelmingly crass and tasteless fashion, and immediately reaps an enormous, priceless bonanza of attention and publicity?  In our culture, sensationalism trumps quality any day of the week, and people delight in watching others degrade themselves, the more publicly, the better.  What we can expect in the future is more of the same, because nothing succeeds like success, and Ms. Cyrus has very clearly shown us that the reward for bad behavior is infinitely more lucrative than the reward for good behavior.

The "PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF THERE'S SOME OTHER WAY WE CAN SCREW UP" Award.  The name of this award comes from a scene in the classic movie "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country."  After a particularly awkward and uncomfortable dinner with a delegation of Klingons, Capt. Kirk says, "I'm going to bed now.  Please let me know if there's some other way we can screw up tonight!"  This award is given to the most monumental screw-up of the year, something that was so horrifically misconceived and so dismallly executed that the inevitable carnage was spread far and wide, from sea to shining sea.

Everyone knows that the staff here at the Careless Whispers blog (me and 17 rabbits) is nothing but even-handed and impartial (I would have said "fair and balanced" but those dirtbags at Fox News have ruined that phrase for the rest of eternity), and we assign blame wherever appropriate, regardless of political affiliation.  Thus, this award goes to the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act.

The ACA had been in the works for a long time, and is the signature legislative achievement of the Obama administration.  Central to the idea of health care reform is a national website which would allow people to shop for health insurance and sign up online.  The website is widely reported to have cost over $400 million dollars when it went live on October 1st.  For nearly HALF A BILLION dollars you'd think you'd get the Lamborghini of websites, a platinum-standard of efficiency and user-friendliness.  What we got instead was a clunky, poorly-designed mess which was well nigh impossible to navigate.  I got on the site about two weeks after launch and it was incredibly slow and tediously frustrating.  There were many things wrong with it, too many to list here, but suffice to say it was a big pain in the ass to use.  I stopped using it whenever it took 20 minutes to get some information back after you hit ENTER, and the questionnaire part that gathered personal information was a complete mess, asking ridiculous questions and taking an unacceptably long time to do anything.  I went and did something else for a month and came back to the site, and it had improved considerably.  I found a health care plan which I liked and the rest of the process was really pretty easy.

But the damage was done and the entire country went crazy.  The Republicans jumped on it like a pack of ravenous hyenas on a geriatric antelope and took every single opportunity to inflame and misinform the public regarding the entire concept of health care reform.  At this writing, the Obama administration has just barely begun to drag itself out of the mammoth crater it dug for itself and hopefully by this time next year, the extreme screw-up that greeted the launch of the ACA will be a distant, unpleasant memory.  But not before the Republicans squeeze every single drop of political advantage out of it.

Next up:  Part 3, in which we tie up the loose ends and send 2013 to the Promised Land.

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